Möbel + ArchitekturAn interview with Andreas Murkudis
It must arrest me immediately. It does not necessarily have to be minimalistic. It can also be opulent, decorative. It must trigger something within me. It must be something special.
I meet Andreas Murkudis in his eponymous concept store on a late spring morning in Berlin. The space, a vast 1000 square former print factory, stands quiet and serene before the day’s business begins. The sharp clack of an assistant’s shoes echo from somewhere at the back of the shop. I wander around for 10 minutes, observing the clothes and ornaments that I know from reading past interviews have been minutely curated by Murkudis. The man himself enters at the front of the shop and walks over to me. Clad in navy knit and dark slacks with a close crop of salt and pepper hair, his subtly considered appearance somewhat mirrors the deeply tasteful presentation of his collections. We spend the next hour talking about his 15 years working in the art scene, how Berlin has changed in that period, and AM Möbel + Architektur, the sister store to AM which is dedicated to design and furniture.
Tell us about your initial interests in furniture and design.
Actually, everything started with design. I learned a lot about architecture and design in the Werkbundarchiv, which later became the Museum der Dinge in Berlin. The Werkbund, founded in 1907, was the precursor institution to Bauhaus. After working in this museum for many years, I opened my first store as a short term pilot project, and after this worked I decided to open my first store in Münzstraße in Berlin Mitte. You could mainly buy clothes there, and other things I liked. Soon after, I began to offer furniture there because it made sense to me to see everything in the bigger picture.
In 2008, I opened a separate furniture shop in Mitte on the second floor of the building. There, I began to represent the brands with whom I still work today. There came a point when there wasn’t enough room for the fashion brands we were stocking, so we decided to completely separate them. This is why on Potsdamer Straße 77 there is a store dedicated to furniture and interior design.
We have a very talented team with which we offer complete interior and architecture consultancy services. Our clients, who come from all over the world, really appreciate that. You see I like to dig deep and dive into details. Objects and their beauty need space to unfold and I love to give it to them – this is why I now rented another space, which is not a store but a big area where I can make temporary exhibitions with brands and artists whose work I would like to show on a bigger, more comprehensive scale.
What drove you towards working in retail, did you work elsewhere before that?
Before I opened the first store in the Münzstrasse, I had no real experience in retail. Among other roles, I supervised at Museum der Dinge where I sold objects of Bless, Vaults of Comme Des Garcons and Hamann chocolate. This was the beginning basically.
How has Berlin changed?
A decade or so ago you could rent an infinite number of surfaces at favourable prices and try them out. The risk was very low. So there was a variety of restaurants, bars, shops, clubs and galleries in Mitte. The streets of Mitte were alive until the early hours of the morning. This has fundamentally changed in the last few years. The rent has multiplied and has swept away this diversity. The Mitte of the past is extinct.
Do you still find that the city offers the same opportunities in terms of experimentation as it did in the past? Or is it losing its edge?
Berlin has lost a lot over the years. There are still creative initiatives, but these settle in other districts like Neukölln or Wedding. There is still experimentation and innovation but it is seen more in the field of gastronomy.
From the feeling of the two stores, it seems that spaces themselves are key to the feeling you want to create for your customers. What do you look for when you are in the early planning stages of a store?
When I decided seven years ago to leave Mitte, I had no real idea where to go next or what I was looking for. All I knew was that I was looking for the perfect room for me and my store. After a year of fruitless search, I found myself in this yard on Potsdamer Strasse. All the spaces there were empty and I looked at them all.
When I entered my present store space, my gut feeling said, ‘this is it’. It needed a lot of work but that didn’t distract me. I immediately said yes to the landlord, without knowing what it meant to refurbish such a large space.
Before I had always rented and renovated areas between 50-150sqm. Now I had hit 1000sqm. It was a bit crazy, the renovations were really expensive. The space had previously been a printing hall. There was basically nothing in there. Everything had to be renewed but somehow we made it, I think mainly because the vision I had for this space and the area around was really strong. I had no plan, I just decided to do it.
What do you look for in a piece of furniture – is there a mental checklist you go through before choosing it for your store?
It must arrest me immediately. It does not necessarily have to be minimalistic. It can also be opulently decorative. It must trigger something within me. It must be something special. In design, in production, in the material. It must appeal to me as much as the customer who enters our shop.
Where do you find inspiration outside of design and fashion?
When I am travelling, I try to always make time to visit art galleries and museums. I also try to explore cities on foot, because there are many inspirations. I use this time to be surprised by the things that are around me and I can find beauty in everything.
We recently launched a new website, to give people the opportunity to understand where things are coming from and how we appreciate the brands we are working with for so long. We have opened it just now with four auctions of things from my private collection, from fashion history and design history. Things I collected along the way. All of them are unique; like an invite of Helmut Lang, which was designed as a fax, or the legendary SIX Magazines by Comme des Garçons. Incredibly rare collector’s items. I also find beauty in conversations, or meeting friends and many other things – I really believe that you just have to open your eyes and be ready for beauty, then you find it.
Would you consider yourself a curator above everything else?
I am neither a curator nor an operator of a concept store. I try to offer the customer a special experience. Our customer should be surprised by our selection of products and brands. Furthermore, the customer should feel comfortable with us. He or she should be able to move freely in the spacious rooms. I try to translate the beauty I see in many different ways. Whether this is in the buying of the collections, the arrangements of the products at the stores, or through the various projects we are working on here and so on. I love to seek and find beautiful things, and I love when people are happy with what they buy in the long term, not on a consumerist short term.
I know you mentioned that you greatly enjoy collaborative work – tell us about some of the collaborations you have worked on in the past and what you have coming up this year.
In the past, we have worked on various collaborations with brands, some of which we have done very intensively. This includes a tea service by the artist Olaf Nicolai, who produced with the porcelain manufacturer Nymphenburg. Furthermore, I had wanted a graphic oak cabinet, which I developed with e15.
We also developed a leather travel case with Isaac Reina in which you could put five travel sized Aesop bottles. The latest collaboration is with the Japanese company, Second skin, who have developed a complete travel set for us. The base is a T-shirt that is so fine and light that it doesn’t weigh anything on the scales, plus you get a travel sized scent candle, aromas, a toothbrush from Ross hair, and an ecologically produced toothpaste and other products you need to travel with in order to feel at home. We will ramp up this type of collaboration in the future.
- Words & Photos: Robbie Lawrence